Robinson not buying Davis hype
CHICAGO -- The annual ritual of NBA prospect chest-puffing took place on Thursday, when Kansas forward Thomas Robinson reiterated his recent stance that he isn't among those buying into the Anthony Davis hype.
The Kentucky forward is seen as the consensus No. 1 pick in the June 28 draft, and he sauntered into the interview room at the draft combine wearing a T-shirt that read "Check my stats." Davis wasn't asked about the meaning of the shirt, but Robinson wasn't afraid to share his thoughts when reporters inquired.
"If you wanted to check the stats, then I'd be the No. 1 pick easily -- if that's what you want to do," he said. "I should get one of those shirts. I'll get a shirt that says, 'Numbers don't lie.' "
Based on the tale of the tape, Robinson -- who could go as high as No. 2 to Charlotte but is widely considered a top five pick -- has a point. He averaged 17.7 points, 11.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, while Davis averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 4.7 blocks. Robinson was then asked if he would be looking for revenge from any team that passes him in the draft.
"I'm going to go after every team that I step on the floor against," Robinson said. "There's really not going to be a specific team that I'm going to point out and just try to kill. I'm trying to kill everybody."
Though Robinson's hope of being the No. 1 pick is far-fetched, he is among the most impressive talents in the group. He emerged following the departure of the Morris twins (Marcus, who plays for the Houston Rockets, and Markieff, who plays for the Phoenix Suns) after last season, and established himself as a reliable and potent threat in the post.
"I think I play with a different level than everyone else, a different intensity level," Robinson said. "I'm going to play every night -- that's not something every guy [does]. Everybody don't show up every night on a consistent basis. I think out of this group, I probably would say that I'm one of the players that do."
As for Davis, he continued his comical habit of pretending he won't be taken first overall. When asked by a reporter from Portland whether there was a chance he'd slip to the Trail Blazers at No. 6 as opposed to going to the Hornets at No. 1, he said there's "a great chance, actually. Maybe the Hornets may not like me, or Charlotte. You never know. It's not set in stone yet, so it is what it is."
Davis said he's unfazed by the incredible hype that has him being compared to the likes of Boston's Kevin Garnett and San Antonio's Tim Duncan by league executives who aren't typically prone to hyperbole.
"I'll be flattered" by the comparisons, Davis told SI.com. "But at the same time, my expectations of what I can be are to be great. So I always try to work hard. That's the biggest thing, to make sure I'm always in the gym so I can live up to those expectations."
The notion is as implausible as the idea of Austin Rivers becoming a passive player and a timid personality, which is to say it's highly unlikely.
But there is a chance -- however small -- that the former Duke star could team up with his father and Boston coach, Doc Rivers, at the start of his NBA career. The Celtics have the 21st pick, and Austin Rivers -- who said he expects to be taken anywhere from the fourth pick (Cleveland) to No. 12 (Milwaukee) -- is part of a shooting guard group that is as tough to handicap as any of the positions and thus means someone will likely slide. And as is the case with most matters with the ultra-confident Rivers, he's sure he could find a way to make a unique situation in Boston work.
"It's a father-son relationship, and then it also turns father-son and coach-player, so it would just be an interesting balance of how we'd have to balance that out," he said. "I don't know if anybody has done that before seriously where it's been a serious thing. I just don't know how that would work.
"I think it could work. I think we could work, just because of how seriously my dad takes the game and how seriously I take it. We both love the game of basketball, and it's our livelihood. ... I think outside the lines, you just have to be normal, and then inside the lines you just have to understand that it's nothing personal. It's a job."
With 36-year-old Ray Allen set to become a free agent this summer and second-year guard Avery Bradley known first and foremost as a defensive player, Rivers -- who averaged 15.5 points and shot 43.3 percent as a freshman last season -- would be a great get for Boston at that point in the draft. To Rivers' credit, his willingness to even discuss the scenario speaks volumes about his rare perspective in this draft process.
While most players are obsessed with the idea of being taken as high as possible, Rivers and his agent, David Falk, have focused far more on finding a good fit for his skills. Going lower might mean less money in the first four years of a player's career because of the NBA's rookie-scale system, in other words, but it could pay off in the long term if the other factors -- from the coach to his system and the culture of the respective organization -- are more favorable.
The strategy has worked for Falk with other recent players, most notably Roy Hibbert. The center was drafted 17th by Toronto in 2008 and immediately traded to the Pacers, with whom he made his first All-Star team this season just in time to demand a massive contract when he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. A more recent example is rookie small forward Kawhi Leonard. The Pacers picked him No. 15 last year and traded him on draft night to San Antonio, where he was a phenomenal fit for a Spurs team that reached the Western Conference finals.
Rivers, who has been accused of being overly cocky, admitted that he had to be convinced to put his ego aside during this process for his own best interests.
"You want to go the highest because you want to be the best," he said. "That's just the way I've always tried to be. But at the same time, [Falk] has just been trying to tell me that it's about the right fit for you. ... We looked at the teams, and all the teams that I've been working out for are all the teams that fit me."
Those teams that he plans to work out for, according to Rivers, are New Orleans (No. 1 and No. 10 picks), Cleveland (4), Portland (6 and 11), Houston (14 and 16), Phoenix (13), and Washington (3). At that point, his play will be doing the talking. For now, though, he continues to answer questions about the swagger that has rubbed some team executives the wrong way.
"The perception that I get is that people say I'm cocky," Rivers said. "I think all great players are cocky. You have to be. You have to have an ego. It's just making sure it's a healthy ego. You don't want to have an arrogance or a cockiness or ego that affects the team, and that's something I've never had.
"My ego and my confidence has always rubbed off on other people in a positive way, where I give confidence to other players and I try to help other players and just given them confidence."
After putting up impressive numbers in his sophomore season, Memphis shooting guard Will Barton is trying to work his way into the first round. He wasn't afraid to promote himself as being much more than that, though.
"My stats speak for themselves," said Barton, who averaged 18 points, eight rebounds and 2.9 assists and shot 50.9 percent last season. "I feel like I'm the best wing in the draft. I don't know what else I've got to do [to impress teams] but keep working hard, keep competing and doing the best I can."
The shooting guard has no shortage of competition at his position, however, including Florida's Bradley Beal, Syracuse's Dion Waiters, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb, Washington's Terrence Ross and Rivers. Barton's pitch is founded in his versatility.
"I can guard the one, two and the three," he said of defending point guards, shooting guards and small forwards. "I can play the one, two and the three. I'm a guy who likes to attack, to get to the rim. I can create for myself and for others. I'm very competitive. I rebound well. I can do a lot of things."
• Weber State point guard Damian Lillard was the only one of the potential top 10 prospects to go through the combine drills on Thursday. Most of the highest profile players pulled out, opting to focus on the individual team workouts instead of showcasing their skills for the masses here. Lillard, who is considered the top point guard in the draft despite coming from the lesser-known Big Sky Conference, said he took pride in participating.
"I came here to Chicago to play," he told SI.com. "I know there's a lot of people who doubt me, who say, 'Oh, he didn't play the highest competition.' But when I came here, I said, 'I'm going to go out there and I'm going to show that I can guard at this level and I can score,' and I did."
• Waiters created buzz on Thursday by pulling out of all interviews and leaving the combine. The surprising move gave the indication that he had a promise in the mid-first round. It's not known if that's the case, though a team executive with good reason to find out said the leading suspects are Toronto (No. 8) and Phoenix (No. 13).
• While there's nothing Davis can do (or at least very little) to affect his draft stock, there continues to be confusion about why he hasn't hired an agent yet. It's unusual for a top pick to wait so long to select his representation, and league sources said he is still choosing among the groups headed by Leon Rose (Creative Artists Agency), Bill Duffy (BDA), Arn Tellem (Wasserman Media Group) and possibly Jeff Schwartz. Davis' father, Anthony Davis Sr., is heading the process, and it's widely believed that he's losing money by the day because of the inability to monetize the momentum he built after winning a national title with Kentucky.
The lack of an agent, interestingly, had a ripple effect on Davis' public presentation on Thursday. Because he has no agent, groups that typically help dress the prospects for this event -- like Jhoanna Alba of the fashion company Alba -- were unable to establish a relationship with him and potentially become a partner. As a result, Davis wore the T-shirt that sparked Robinson's ire. Meanwhile, Robinson, a client of Alba's, was widely seen as the fashion winner of the day. He wore a sharp pairing of gray plaid slacks, white-with-brown-checks shirt and brown-with-orange knit tie.